Polytheism in the Bible

Many gods aren't just in Greek or Roman legends. The Bible has polytheism as well.The first of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). (There are two very different sets of Ten Commandments in Exodus, but let’s ignore that for now.)

Have you ever thought much about the wording of this commandment? Why doesn’t it say that Jehovah is the only god? It’s because this section of the Bible was written in the early days of the Israelite religion (roughly 10th century BCE) when it was still polytheistic. The next commandment notes, “I, Jehovah, your God, am a jealous God”—jealous because there were indeed other viable options, and Jehovah insisted on a commitment.

Jewish Henotheism

Let’s use the proper term for this, henotheism. Polytheists acknowledge many gods and worship many gods; henotheists acknowledge many gods but worship only one. In this view, different gods ruled different territories just as kings did, and tribes owed allegiance to whichever god protected them.

I’ve gotten a lot of insight into Old Testament henotheism from Thom Stark’s The Human Faces of God. Some of what follows comes from chapter 4 of that book.

The Song of Moses (Deut. 32) is considered to be some of the oldest material in the Bible—dating to the mid-13th c. BCE. We have several somewhat-inconsistent copies, the oldest being from the Dead Sea Scrolls:

When Elyon divided the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam,
he established the borders of the nations according to the number of the sons of the gods.
Yahweh’s portion was his people, [Israel] his allotted inheritance. (Deut. 32:8–9)

Here we see Elyon, the head of the divine pantheon, dividing humankind among his children, giving each his inheritance. The idea of a divine pantheon with a chief deity, his consort, and their children (the council of the gods) was widespread through the Ancient Near East. Elyon (short for El Elyon) is the chief god, not just in Jewish writings but in Canaanite literature. The passage concludes with Yahweh getting Israel as his inheritance.

We learn more about terms like “sons of the gods” by widening our focus to consider Ugaritic (Canaanite) texts. Ugarit was a Canaanite city destroyed along with much of the Ancient Near East during the Bronze Age Collapse in roughly 1200 BCE, a period of widespread chaos from which Israelite civilization seems to have grown.

The Ugaritic texts state that El and his consort Asherah had 70 sons, which may be the origin of the 70 nations (or 72) that came from Noah’s descendants listed in Genesis 10.

The Old Testament is full of clues to the existence of multiple gods. Genesis is a good place to start.

Then [Elohim] said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).

We also see plural gods when Jehovah warns them that man mustn’t eat the tree of life (Gen. 3:22) and that they must confuse mankind’s languages lest their projects, like the Tower of Babel, succeed (Gen. 11:7).

A common Christian spin is either to say that the “us” is the Trinity or that it is a heavenly assembly of angels. But can we imagine that the original audience for Genesis would understand the Trinity? And why imagine an angelic assembly when the polytheistic interpretation of Genesis simply growing out of preceding Canaanite culture is available and plausible?

Psalms is another old book that has fossilized the earliest forms of Judaism. We see the assembly of the gods mentioned several times.

[Elohim] stands in the assembly of El; in the midst of the gods he renders judgment (Ps. 82:1).

For who in the skies can compare to [Jehovah]? Who is like [Jehovah] among the [sons of God], a God who is honored [in the great assembly of the holy ones], and more awesome than all who surround him? (Ps. 89:6–7)

And many more verses celebrate Jehovah while acknowledging the existence of others.

For [Jehovah] is the great God, and the great King above all gods (Ps. 95:3).

All the gods bow down before [Jehovah] (Ps. 97:7).

I know [Jehovah] is great, and our Lord is superior to all gods. (Ps. 135:5)

In a recent post, we’ve recently seen where Yahweh loses a fight with the Moabite god Chemosh (2 Kings 3:27).

Migration to Monotheism

We find one indication of the move from henotheism to monotheism in later versions of the Song of Moses (above). The phrase “sons of the gods” becomes “angels” in the Septuagint (3rd century BCE) and “sons of Israel” in the Masoretic text (7th through 10th centuries CE).

Let’s consider books composed later than Genesis or Psalms.

Deuteronomy was written after the conquest of Israel and before the conquest of Judah, in the 7th century BCE. The philosophy has moved from henotheism to monolatry. Like henotheism, many gods are accepted and only one is worshipped, but now worship of other gods is forbidden.

Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you (Deut. 6:14)

But you must not turn away from all the commandments I am giving you today, to either the right or left, nor pursue other gods and worship them (Deut. 28:14–15).

Second Isaiah was written later, near the end of the Babylonian exile. Here we read that the move is complete.

Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me (Isa. 43:10)

The very idea of an idol is lampooned in Isa. 44:9–20. Can a man cook his meal over a fire made from half of the tree he used to carve his idol and imagine that an idol from so unrefined an origin is really a god?

What explains this migration to monotheism? A major factor was the Babylonian exile. How could Yahweh, clearly defined as the most powerful of the assembly of gods, have been defeated by the puny Babylonian god Marduk?

Maybe Yahweh let it happen to teach Israel and Judah a lesson. Yeah, that’s the ticket! Babylon didn’t defeat Yahweh’s people; they were merely a pawn in his grand plan all along.

A decent provision for the poor
is the true test of civilization.
— Samuel Johnson

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Hanan

    But you just said Adam and Abraham saw God. They didn’t die did they? Playing the “bible contradicts itself” card is simply a copout. The book isn’t JUST a patchwork…there is a literary dimension to it as well that flows from beginning to end. So clearly you are misunderstanding what “saw” is.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      Hanan:
      Adam and Abraham didn’t die upon seeing God. I guess Mo was wrong.
      If you interpret the Bible literally, it contradicts itself. If you don’t put that demand on the Bible, obviously you can make it say just about anything you want, like a marionette.

      • Hanan

        >If you interpret the Bible literally, it contradicts itself.

        Then how big was the eagle? You know, the one that carried the Israelites on its back out of Egypt?

  • natsera

    Jewish by culture, if not by belief, and I LOVE it when someone understands the Tanach for what it really is: writings of an ancient culture and a record of their beliefs, their cosmology and mythology, poetry, allegory, and a written-down version of their oral history, which slides into real history as proven by archeological findings. I admit that I’m pretty offended when Romans and Greeks and Norse and Inuit etc. get to have their own mythology, which no one pretends to believe, but they won’t let me have MY cultural mythological heritage.

    The Christian writings, on the other hand, are pure propaganda, and while they do have some historical value, that’s not the reason they were written. And most Christians truly don’t understand why I value my own cultural heritage but place no credence whatsoever in their “Bible”.

    • Madison Blane

      And this is why, as an Atheist, I think Jews are just generally awesome – they tend to understand it’s mythology and cultural, not word-for-word perfect dictates of an infallible deity or history set-in-literal-stone. I’ve learned much more by studying Jewish translations and many things that didn’t make sense in my Christian education and beliefs make perfect sense in light of Judaism as cosmology, mythology, poetry, allegory, and oral history.

      I have Norwegian cousins. Their mythology is pretty cool, too. I don’t begrudge them their traditions. I don’t begrudge the Jewish their traditions and mythology. I actually think it’s pretty cool to learn about. And we absolutely agree – the Christian doctrines have perverted it into an unrecognizable thing and tend to have a hard time understanding anyone who doesn’t value their mental gymnastics of ‘interpretation’.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Atheist Jews, yes. But Israel and Brooklyn have plenty of nutty fundamentalist Jews that are not so enlightened.

        Some atheist Jews keep practice the Jewish traditions as culture. I wish there could be cultural Christians as well–perhaps someday.

  • Steve Brown

    Read Exodus chp 33. The Lord says “no one can see my face and live”. The Lord said he would hide Moses in a clef in a rock face. And when he passed Moses could see his back.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Steve: And when God presented himself to Abraham, he looked just like a regular dude. Same with Adam and Yves. (Oops! I meant Eve!)

      The Bible contradicts itself.

  • Steve Brown

    I don’t understand the point of this article. As a Catholic, I have no problem with many gods in the OT. The stories told in the scriptures (a collection of books) is one of the Supreme God revealing himself little by little.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Steve:

      The point of the article was that, as a Catholic, you should be horrified that the Bible is quite comfortable with polytheism.

      (But I guess you outsmarted me!)

      • Steve Brown

        The writer of this article clearly is not a scripture scholar nor well-versed in the theology of revelation. Why should I be horrified that the Bible mentions the beliefs of the people that He revealed himself to? The commandment to “worship only the Lord God Yaweh” is during the exodus and the reception of the 10 commandments. During the time of Abraham Isaac stole the household gods of Lot his father in law. All this is simply God tolerating the hebrews confused beliefs until He reveals himself. Remember the story in the OT is one of God revealing himself little by little. It is also a story of God constantly calling his people back to Him. There is plenty of hyperbole in the psalms, where God is above all the other gods. It doesn’t mean than we believe that God admits the existance of other gods but that he is swaying, woing Israel to first trust in him alone, and then later that is the one and only. It wasn’t until the time of the Prophets that Israel is cleary monotheistic. Read Hosea God likens unfaithful Israel to a prostitute yet He still loves her.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Why should I be horrified that the Bible mentions the beliefs of the people that He revealed himself to?

          Because they document the evolution of Judaism. If it really were the teachings of the omniscient creator of the universe, it’d be unchanging from Day 1.

          All this is simply God tolerating the hebrews confused beliefs until He reveals himself.

          Why the delay? Why not just tell us the truth right away? We can handle it now; why not make it clear then?

          God didn’t give out warnings for centuries after the 10 Commandments; they went into effect right away.

          Makes it sound like rationalization for beliefs invented by humans.

          Remember the story in the OT is one of God revealing himself little by little.

          Which is just the rationalization that you’d make for an invented religion, not at all what the actual dictates from God would look like.

          I prefer the natural explanation.

        • RichardSRussell

          “Why the delay? Why not just tell us the truth right away? We can handle it now; why not make it clear then?”

          Kinda makes you wonder what God’s not telling us NOW, doesn’t it? Cure for cancer, maybe? But not until we’re “ready for it”, of course.

        • Bryan Richards

          yay for kids with cancer…

        • stephen

          I am absolutley no where close to being informed as many people on this page but I do want to point out that you bob are in fact rationalizing the situation just as we are in your eyes, you can depict scriptures in soo many ways. I understand where a lot of atheists and doubtful believers that persecute god and his word come from but I have faith that his word is true, yes I say faith and a lot of arguers would say that I am dumb and I am blindly following religion, but I think God asks nothing of us but to follow his rule and believe in him with faith, not facts, it is impossible to ever understand everything when it comes to the bible, or god, or any monotheistic relgion that refers to him. It wasnt suppose to be like that, if there werent so many crossroads and inteferences that lucifer put into context then we all would be on the same page. We are not, and thats why we argue over it. I guess what im trying to get at is that there is no way that we will ever be able to prove god’s existence in the expectations that non-believers have. The sin that has been commited for thousands of years have pushed us farther and
          farther away from God, and is why we argue. I am doubtful, I wonder how the followers of jesus christ could possibly
          reqruit non-believers without a miraculous sign from God, honestly the answer I gave myself just now was that they would have to first have an open mind and seek god out first. That part is up to them to follow through, but again Interferences such as pride within oneself or others ridiculing them, or no desire to pursue the truth effect the move to. Many many many factors contribute. Basically, all the bickering on this page is unnecessary, the followers of jesus are obliged to point non believers in the right path and refrain from any other actions. So I can tell every single one of you on this page to seek the lord individually, with an open mind and sincere desire to know the truth because if god is real, like I say he is, like he says he is, and millions of followers say his then he should answer your prayers (yes pray, because thats how you will find the answer) like we say he does. If he doesnt, then he is not real. Of course it all depends on what kind of effort you put into it and whether you have an open mind about it as well so if you do not try 100% to find the truth why should it be given to you if you do not sincerely want it, but want it without effort? I have been blabbering enough, and I am not even sure if I made valid points so I apoligize in advance. God bless all of you that do not understand his words and meanings. His genuine and simple wants out of us

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks for your frank comments.

          You act as if there is just one religion, yours. The people from a thousand other religions could make the same argument you’re making–my path is the right path, you just have to pray like I tell you to, lots of believers will back me up that prayers are answered by our god, and so on.

          Since your appeal looks the same as all the others, why should I imagine that yours is right? Maybe we’ve both got it wrong and the Scientologists or Wiccans or Muslims have it right.

        • Jessie

          We Wiccans do have it right!

        • MNb

          “there is no way that we will ever be able to prove god’s existence in the expectations that non-believers have”
          Because of this I don’t think you’re dumb. But I don’t have faith either.

          “all the bickering on this page is unnecessary”
          Yes. Playing chess is unnecessary as well, but I still follow the current Candidates Tournament quite closely.

          “to seek the lord individually, with an open mind and sincere desire”
          Done so. Nothing.

          “he should answer your prayers (yes pray…)”
          Done so, as a teenager, when I was far more open minded than the grumpy middle aged man I am now.
          No answer. Ever.

          “it all depends on what kind of effort you put into”
          I sincerely hope you don’t imply that my effort was not enough. If you do I refer you to Matth. 7:1.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Playing chess is unnecessary as well

          I’ll have to remember that one!

          No answer. Ever.

          God probably just doesn’t like you.

        • Bryan Richards

          ” you can depict scriptures in soo many ways.”

          Which is why rational people don’t believe it, it is meaningless.

  • http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=c79_1373583368 Jor-EL

    Is Christianity a polytheistic or monotheistic religion, still cant understand.. ? someone help pls..

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      haga: I have a post on the Trinity coming out Monday. That will touch on this issue.
      Judaism evolved over time, and so did Christianity. I’d say that Christianity is obviously polytheistic, with the Trinity a clumsy patch to argue that it’s not (Muslims lampoon this). But apparently monotheism was too important to discard.

    • Mathew Finch

      The problem with Christianity is you need to be monotheistic, while reconciling competing Christology in the Bible.
      Matthew clearly has Jesus talking about a god who is NOT him, while you have John which lets you know in no uncertain terms that Jesus is divine and a god.

    • adam

      Depends on the cult/branch and if they believe in the 3 gods of the trinity

  • Hrafn

    That an evangelical Christian, such as Kitchen, defends the historical accuracy of the Old Testament is hardly surprising, but in no way is it evidence that this is the consensus academic viewpoint.

  • Cory

    Psalm 82:1 The entire context of the psalm is speaking towards leaders of Judaism who support wicked deeds and do not help the poor. 1: God takes his stand in his own congregation, he judges in the midst of his rulers. 2: How long will you show partiality to the wicked?.. When you jump to verse 6 it says “You are gods, and all of you are sons of the most high. Nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the princes”8 Arise, O god, judge the earth! For it is you who possesses all the nations… This is speaking of priests in the contexts of god saying “you are like gods” What the bible is saying is that the priests have a divinely rank among people, but are not gods themselves. That god indeed will judge them just as any other regular human being due to their bad deeds.

    When it comes to Psalm 89:6-7 it is the exact same story. Telling priests that just because they are holy men they cannot be compared to god.

    Deuteronomy 32:8 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance. When he separated the sons of man, he set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the lords portion is his People; Jacob is the allotment of his inheritance.
    In this verse you literally throw your own incorrect word usage into the text.

    It’s already 1 am here so I’m not going to spend all night correcting the rest of your mistakes in this article. I can already tell by these first mistakes you don’t exactly have everything researched so I’ll finish with this. Your attempt at biblical history is interesting, but false. I do not consider myself to be a biblical expert due to the fact that I study other texts as well so my knowledge isn’t complete on every sentence in the book I will admit, but even someone who has read the bible only a few times can easily understand your mistakes. I guess this is the point of the internet, to give everyone a voice, even if that person is horribly wrong and misleading about biblical text. I just figured being on a site about different religions, the people who write the articles might have actual religious understandings. If you are ignorant on the topic, please refrain from it, otherwise, if you find yourself intelligent on the topic, you are intentionally misleading other people and that is inexcusable.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      So Ps. 82:1 is not about an assembly of gods? Doesn’t it clearly state that it is?

      If you’re saying that you know a way to rationalize the Bible to meet your Christian assumptions, I’ll believe you. But I don’t think that’s what the verses say.

      It’s already 1 am here so I’m not going to spend all night correcting the rest of your mistakes in this article. I can already tell by these first mistakes you don’t exactly have everything researched so I’ll finish with this.

      Golly. Sorry to have caused you so much trouble.

      Your attempt at biblical history is interesting, but false.

      Show that your interpretation is the only interpretation, not simply your preferred one.

      even someone who has read the bible only a few times can easily understand your mistakes.

      Imagine a non-Christian read this. How would that person see it?

      if you find yourself intelligent on the topic, you are intentionally misleading other people and that is inexcusable.

      Perhaps you speak from experience?

  • phyllis55

    Well, I want to find the god that is not the Israelite god. Where is he? Who is he? Because we non-jew israelites certainly need one to look after us! That Yahweh character certainly is thriving on the jew takeover of the world and where is our god helping us? We don’t even know who he is or his name because I would look to an anti-semite god in a heartbeat!

    • Lucius

      You may benefit from a perusal of the esoteric literature of the Jews. Or, if you’ve ever read “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea,” explore the Ever-Living Infinite God that is praised and adored by Captain Nemo (Nemo meaning No-one; a God worshipped by ‘No-one’ is probably the God you seek). Jules Verne was almost certainly a Mason and a Rosicrucian, you might have something to gain there. Maybe even explore the semi-occult ideas of Viktor Schauberger, his conception of Nature – much like my own – is very beautiful. :)

      • d marino

        Thanks for your input. I have perused enough of the Jew literature. There is enormous reason why the world has always hated these people due to their beliefs and actions! Their psypathic god is certainly not a god I would worship. The Jew invention of the Christ was a perfect way to subvert non-jews into believing the “love, and non violence, and give away everything” mantra to enable their planned domination of the world by believing in a god that does not exist!

  • Alexandra

    Reading through this article shook me a little,and reading through your comments has been a rollercoaster. I really must thank you all as you took my mind left to right. Yeah, there’s one God, one origin, they have not denied it, if your persuasion is pursuit, at least make it an exciting journey.

    Adieu.

  • angelonasios

    The only thing I want to comment on at the moment is the word
    “jealous” which gets a lot of criticism. I am Greek, so I always
    go back to the Greek Septuagint to see how words were changed.

    When my cousin from Greece was visiting, we spoke about this
    section. I asked does it not say that god is “jealous” and we looked up the
    passage in Greek. The word translated into “jealous” is ζηλωτής. This word
    really means “zealous”, devoted and passionate to something. God is devoted to
    his people, passionate or “zealous”. God is not jealous or envious. The
    commandment is about being faithful to God because God is faithful to his
    people.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks. “Zealous” in a protective sense does get into the “jealous” domain, it seems to me.

      • Brennan McMahon

        Wow. That’s a stretch Mr. Fantastic would be jealous of…

    • Mathew Finch

      The phrase makes sense either way. God is an “emotional/passionate” god, meaning he gets his feelings hurt easily, so don’t worship other gods.

  • Lycan

    “8 When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.

    9 For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.”

    “In a recent post, we’ve recently seen where Yahweh loses a fight with the Moabite god Chemosh (2 Kings 3:27).”

    2 Kings 3:27King James Version (KJV)

    27 Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.”

    Where does any of that seem to happen in that verse?

    Also in regards to the Isrealites being polytheist

    Psalm 96:4-5King James Version (KJV)

    4 For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised: he is to be feared above all gods.

    5 For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens.”

    So when they talk about other gods what the really mean are the idols that the other nations worship.

    God bless everyone.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’m not sure of your point. You seem to be agreeing with me.

      • Lycan

        It seems you made up what was said in 2 Kings 3:27. It doesn’t mention anything of what you said.

        Also the passages you claim to show polytheism don’t really show polytheism. Could you maybe point out the source of the verses since I read them and it honestly at seems like you are messing with what they really say.

        • MNb

          http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/MSmith_BiblicalMonotheism.shtml

          But of course like any good apologist you’re going to dismiss science when its results don’t suit you.

        • Lycan

          What does any of that have to do with 2 Kings 3:27?

          Also

          Deuteronomy 32:8-9English Standard Version (ESV)

          8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
          when he divided mankind,
          he fixed the borders[a] of the peoples
          according to the number of the sons of God.[b]
          9 But the Lord’s portion is his people,
          Jacob his allotted heritage.

          Jesus also explains Psalms 82.

          “Is it not written in yyour Law, z‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot beabroken— 36 do you say of him whom bthe Father consecrated and csent into the world,”

          Source:http://biblia.com/books/esv/Jn10.34

          This site explains basically the other parts of the argument.

          Source taken from: http://www.gotquestions.org/you-are-gods.html

        • MNb

          That essay confirms Biblical polytheism. Christian propaganda like you provide can’t refute that.
          Thanks for confirming my prediction that you don’t care about science.

        • Lycan

          I already have refuted it and you seemed to ignore everything else I wrote. It still didn’t even mention 2 Kings 3:27 which is what started this comment.

        • MNb

          Why would I need to address stuff that’s already addressed by other folks? I only wrote that the essay you linked to confirms Biblical polytheism. Apparently you’re not intelligent enough to draw the logical conclusion yourself: “the link you provided yourself by no means backs up your position. Instead you prefer simply to neglect it. That makes you look bad.
          So thanks again. You don’t care about logic either.

        • Lycan

          Yes it does. The link explains how when people in the bible used the term gods sometimes they meant people in positions of power. Psalms also explained that when the people reffered to the gods of the other nations that they were talking about the idols.

        • MNb

          http://www.gotquestions.org/you-are-gods.html

          “It usually refers to the one true God”
          This implies there are also no true gods – ie polytheism. Granted, the readers of the OT did not worship them (or as an excellent Historian of Antiquity puts it, sacrifice to them). But they still believed there were “no true gods”. More than one god – ie polytheism.

          “they were talking about the idols.”
          In the first place your god is an idol as well. Denying this is called special pleading. But of course you don’t min a logical fallacy now and then.
          In the second place these idols were considered gods. So what you write is that Psalms confirms that the other people believed the gods of the other nations were gods. Hence polytheism.

          “when God sent Moses to Pharaoh ….”
          The Pharao claimed to be divine. The Bible confirms that claim – hence polytheism.
          Etc. etc.
          Previous time I was incomplete. It sure isn’t the intention of that site, but it still confirms Biblical polytheism. What’s more: there is archeological evidence.

          http://mainzerbeobachter.com/2013/11/23/hoezo-monotheisme-1/

          “We zullen nooit méér weten over Theodotos de zoon van Dorion en Ptolemaios de zoon van Dionysios dan dat ze hun Joodse identiteit trots vermeldden in de inscripties die ze hebben achtergelaten in een Egyptische tempel, gewijd aan de door-en-door Griekse godheid Pan.”

          “We’ll never know more about Theodotos son of Dorion and Ptolemaios son of Dionysios thant that they proudly mentioned their Jewish identitiy in the inscriptions they left behind in an Egyptian temple, dedicated to the very Greek god Pan.”

          But of course you don’t care about science.

        • Lycan

          “In the first place your god is an idol as well. Denying this is called special pleading. But of course you don’t min a logical fallacy now and then.In the second place these idols were considered gods. So what you write is that Psalms confirms that the other people believed the gods of the other nations were gods. Hence polytheism.”

          Actually it showed that they didn’t believe they were gods.

          Psalm 135:15-18 “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands.
          16 They have mouths, but cannot speak,
          eyes, but cannot see.
          17 They have ears, but cannot hear,
          nor is there breath in their mouths.
          18 Those who make them will be like them,
          and so will all who trust in them.”

          So in other words they didn’t believe that the idols of the other nations were alive at all, meaning that they didn’t believe they were gods.

          “There have been at least two Jews who recognized not only the existence of Pan, but it also saw no leg to honor a foreign god with a token of appreciation.”

          Seriously two jews out of an entire nation. If two people out of millions beleive in more than one deity it doesn’t show that the entire nation did or their belief system said so.

          “I think they are all ancient peoples were most monotheistic, but the standard was not always achieved in practice.”

          So even the person seems to agree that the belief.

          Plus Bob in his article I believe is trying to show that the earlier Hebrews were polytheist. However once again from the link you provided.

          ” They appear in any case to have broken one of the Ten Commandments: “Honor beside me no other gods.” The same standard is an even greater extent in the Deuteronomy verse “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone”,”

          Deuteronomy was written between 1407-1406 BC so that was pretty early.

          “In short, the norm was clear, but she was not always respected. Theodotos and Ptolemy are examples.”

          Thanks for the article by the way.

        • MNb

          “Actually it showed that …..”
          Yeah yeah, we already know that you stick to your prejudices no matter what. Hence you didn’t address what I wrote. Normally I don’t like repeating myself, but I’ll make an exception for you:

          “It usually refers to the one true God”
          This implies there are also no true gods – ie polytheism. Granted, the readers of the OT did not worship them (or as an excellent Historian of Antiquity puts it, sacrifice to them). But they still believed there were “no true gods”. More than one god – ie polytheism.

          Nothing in your answer contradicts this.

        • Lycan

          “But they still believed there were “no true gods”. More than one god – ie polytheism.”

          Actually that shows monotheism believing in only one true God.

        • MNb

          “No true gods” also are gods. Hence polytheism.
          You only can derive monotheism from this because you have tightened your blinkers firmly. Here is a picture of Lycan reading the Bible:

          https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/28/Horses_2.jpg

          http://people.ucalgary.ca/~eslinger/genrels/issues/polytheism.html
          http://religiousstudiesblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/polytheism-in-bible.html

        • Greg G.

          Henotheism

          Henotheism (Greek ἑνας θεός henas theos “one god”) is the belief in and worship of a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities that may also be served. The term was originally coined by Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1775–1854) to depict early stages of monotheism.

          But that is a neologism and the ancients may not have made that distinction 2500 years ago.

        • Lycan

          “”No true gods” also are gods. Hence polytheism.You only can derive monotheism from this because you have tightened your blinkers firmly. Here is a picture of Lycan reading the Bible:”

          Wrong again because when something isn’t true it is false or fake.

        • MNb

          Exactly! They believed in gods you think false or fake. Hence polytheism (or if you prefer – henotheism).
          Thanks for confirming, Lycan.

        • Lycan

          They said they were false. If I believe there is only on truth and many falsehoods then I don’t in the falsehoods. Hence I only believe in the one truth.

        • MNb

          Nope. If you believe something is false you believe in. False teeth exist. You believe that they exist (I may hope). Same with false gods. Hence polytheism/ henotheism.
          As an atheist I’d never say your or any god is false. It’s meaningless. Your god doesn’t exist. Neither does any other god. I’d say your belief in god is false, but that’s not the same.

        • Lycan

          “Nope. If you believe something is false you believe in. ”

          Not really, especially in this context. A false king isn’t really a king at all, A false horse is not a horse (If I put a bunch of wooden horses next to a real one and ask someone how many horses there are, they will most likely say one.)

        • MNb

          Nonsense. Henry VII was a false king. He was very much king. And he was not wooden. False analogies don’t prove anything. A wooden horse is not a false horse – it’s not a horse at all.

        • Lycan

          So are you saying a wooden horse is not a true horse?

        • MNb

          So are you saying Henry VII was not a king?

        • Ron

          Seriously two jews out of an entire nation. If two people out of millions beleive in more than one deity it doesn’t show that the entire nation did or their belief system said so.

          From 2 Kings 17:7-12:

          “This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods…. They had followed the practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of them, as well as the practices the kings of Israel had introduced….They built pagan shrines for themselves in all their towns, from the smallest outpost to the largest walled city. They set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles at the top of every hill and under every green tree. They offered sacrifices on all the hilltops, just like the nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of them. So the people of Israel had done many evil things, arousing the Lord’s anger. Yes, they worshiped idols, despite the Lord’s specific and repeated warnings.”

          It outright states that polytheism was the norm in Israel.

        • Lycan

          Actually this event was an exception. It’s clear that the Isrealites had turned away from God in this situation. Bob’s article says that their belief system started out polytheistic. There’s a huge difference.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It seems you made up what was said in 2 Kings 3:27. It doesn’t mention anything of what you said.

          Did you notice the “great wrath against Israel” bit? 2 Ki. 3:27 is the sacrifice that motivates the Moabite’s god Chemosh. Yahweh got beat.

          You might also follow up on that link and read that article.

          How much more polytheism do you need?

        • Lycan


          2 Kings 3:27 ►
          Then he took his oldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.”

          Where in any part of that verse does it say any of what you just said?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          How many times must we go over this?

          Are you just pawing through translations to find one that covers up how Yahweh got his ass kicked? Tip: the KJV isn’t the best one.

          More translations:
          http://biblehub.com/2_kings/3-27.htm

        • Lycan

          None of the versions I saw say what seem to want them to say.

          Also near the bottom of the site it shows commentaries on the verse that explain what may have been meant.

          “Ewald thinks the king’s intention was to” confound the enemy by the spectacle of the frightful deed to which they had forced him,” and thus to “effect a change in their purposes” (‘History of Israel,’ vol. 4. p. 90); but perhaps it is as likely that he hoped to work upon their fears, and induce them to retire under the notion that, if they did not, Chemosh would do them some terrible injury.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yahweh lost because his magic was weaker than that of Chemosh. It’s really not that hard.

        • Lycan

          It doesn’t say that. I don’t believe God is even mentioned in the verse so I still don’t know where you seem to be getting this from.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Is this just willful ignorance? “There was an outburst of divine anger against Israel, so they broke off the attack and returned to their homeland.” The analysis is in the other post, not that much analysis is necessary.

        • Lycan

          Actually the verse says “Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned totheir own land.”

          It doesn’t say divine anger expect in the net bible version. That’s the only version that says divine anger.

          Indignation – anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment.

          So nothing of divine anger is mentioned except in the net bible version.

          Even in that version it is explained.

          Also when translated literally “42 tn Heb “there was great anger against Israel.

          sn The meaning of this statement is uncertain, for the subject of the anger is not indicated. Except for two relatively late texts, the noun קֶצֶף (qetsef) refers to an outburst of divine anger. But it seems unlikely the Lord would be angry with Israel, for he placed his stamp of approval on the campaign (vv. 16-19). D. N. Freedman suggests the narrator, who obviously has a bias against the Omride dynasty, included this observation to show that the Lord would not allow the Israelite king to “have an undiluted victory” (as quoted in M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings [AB], 52, n. 8). Some suggest that the original source identified Chemosh the Moabite god as the subject and that his name was later suppressed by a conscientious scribe, but this proposal raises more questions than it answers. For a discussion of various views, see M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings (AB), 47-48, 51-52.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Just gonna squeeze your eyes tight and ignore the stuff that makes you feel uncomfortable?

          I’ll talk to everyone else, since you enter this conversation with your mind made up. The phrase “divine anger” is also “fury,” “great anger,” “great wrath,” “great indignation,” and “bitter anger.” Read the entire verse in context and then I think you’ll find strong support for my contention: with a sacrifice to Chemosh, Yahweh’s Israel got turned back militarily.

          http://biblehub.com/2_kings/3-27.htm

        • Lycan

          You still seem to be ignoring that the phrase “divine anger” seems to be only used in the net version which explains what it seems to mean.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You still seem to be ignoring that that chapter, in whatever translation you want, talks about the Israelites (that is, Yahweh) losing by supernatural means.

        • Lycan

          No the Israelites are not God. They worship Him. It still doesn’t say that God lost in the verse. Even in the one version where divine anger is used.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You might do something besides just repeating your point. Or not.

        • Lycan

          You still haven’t really made your point. Because the version of the Bible your using is the only one that states divine anger and even in the explanation of the verse in the same version of the Bible disagrees with you.

    • MNb

      “For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the Lord made the heavens.”
      Hence the god the Bible and you call “Lord” is an idol as well. He was the god of the nation called Israel. He didn’t make any heaven. There is no heaven when it means the realm where you’re supposed to go after you die; it’s not created by your god when it means the earthly atmosphere.
      Thanks for providing a fine example showing why the Bible doesn’t have any authority. The author of this quote was clearly ignorant about these matters.

      • Lycan

        “Hence the god the Bible and you call “Lord” is an idol as well. He was the god of the nation called Israel. He didn’t make any heaven. There is no heaven when it means the realm where you’re supposed to go after you die; it’s not created by your god when it means the earthly atmosphere.”

        Can you prove their isn’t a heaven or any of these statements you just made.

        • MNb

          Your god being the god of the nation called Israel: ask any jew.
          Science tell us where the earthly atmosphere comes from; your god was not involved.

          http://scijinks.jpl.nasa.gov/atmosphere-formation/

          You can’t prove that your god created a heaven. “The Bible says so” proves nothing; at best it results in circularity (“the Bible tells us about God and God inspired the Bible”). That alone is already proof that there is no god and there is no heaven.
          In exactly the same way I can’t prove that there are fairies in my backyard, which is proof that there aren’t any. Or do you believe me when I tell you there are fairies?

        • Lycan

          “Some scientists describe three stages in the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere as it is today.”

          Some scientists so am I assume not all scientists agree on this.

          “(“the Bible tells us about God and God inspired the Bible”). That alone is already proof that there is no god and there is no heaven.”

          “So plants and some bacteria use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, and animals use oxygen and give off carbon-dioxide—how convenient! The atmosphere upon which life depends was created by life itself.”

          So are you saying there is no atmosphere?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The burden of proof for the existence of heaven rests on your broad shoulders.

          Go.

  • holly_williams

    To me this says that other gods like the norse celtic and greek etc infact do exist and are genuine gods and goddesses yahweh himself said as much in the first commandment, note that he said no OTHER god before him and that he is jealous or was jealous of the others for having followers. Also it could be noted that he was not talking about the whole world when he made his commandments but much like many other deities he making a set of rules for his own followers and promised to punish them for not following his word. Also as pointed out he kept sayng we when making decisions as though he was discussing it with other deities or giving them orders. very interesting thanks for posting. All hail Thor who never claimed to anything but what he is :)


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